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Yinka Dene Alliance Leverages LNG in BC Pipeline Fight

July 1, 2013
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Enbridge Inc.'s hotly contested Northern Gateway pipeline proposal for an oilsands conduit from Edmonton to a new tanker terminal on the northern Pacific Coast at Kitimat, BC, hit another hurdle this past week when the Yinka Dene Alliance sent a cease and desist letter, warning Enbridge against trespassing in their traditional territories as the company seeks temporary permits for drilling and tree removal for the pipeline project.

In its public notice, the Alliance, whose members' territories make-up 25% of the proposed pipeline route, warned the BC government that its "potential indifference" to granting temporary work permits could put the government's new relationship with the Alliance at risk, including future talks on pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

"The BC government has a constitutional duty to us, and it needs to decide how much damage it is willing to allow Enbridge to do to its own relationship with First Nations," said Chief Fred Sam of the Nak'azdli First Nation. "Is BC really going to grant these permits to allow Enbridge to drill in our territory?'"

Enbridge provided no comment.

The Alliance, whose territory spans the width of the government's envisioned LNG corridor, wrote to Premier Clark last month requesting a government-to-government meeting on pipelines and LNG, and received a personal commitment from the Premier to begin high-level talks at the earliest opportunity. Alliance members includes the Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, and Wet'suwet'en First Nations in northern BC, all of whom have banned the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines from their territories.

The threat to LNG terminal siting comes at a time when the BC LNG export dance card appears to be overflowing. Just last week, United Kingdom-based BG Group threw its name in the hat to build an LNG export terminal in Prince Rupert, BC, one of at least nine LNG projects that have been proposed for the province (see NGI, June 24).

The Alliance said the temporary work permits are for the construction of 16 drilling pads adjacent to the Salmon, Stuart and Muskeg rivers including tree removal and road clearing, which will bring Enbridge drilling crews and local communities "into potential conflict."

The Alliance said it is placing public notices in local newspapers and erecting signs in its territory to warn Enbridge and its contractors against trespassing, promising to prosecute violators based on indigenous law. Representatives of more than 160 First Nations have signed the "Save the Fraser Declaration," banning tar sands oil pipelines from their territories and the migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal approval process had been picking up steam after a reform package that the Conservative government in Ottawa passed last year, titled the Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act (see NGI, Aug. 27, 2012). The new regulatory scheme made it so protesters and critics still have a voice, but are stripped of the power to stall or kill Canadian oil and gas projects with delaying tactics.

The Gateway project's regulatory ordeal continues before a joint review panel of the NEB and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (see NGI, June 3).

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